Room for improvement

Gippsland gay rights activists are concerned religious agency exemptions under same-sex equality adoption laws could open the doors for further exclusions.

On Thursday State Parliament’s upper house passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to adopt, but with an amendment to allow faith-based agencies to reject gay couples.

“It’s a great step forward for Victoria, but it’s always disappointing when we have a right-wing influence affecting the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) community,” Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays Gippsland coordinator Jo Parker said.

“It’s more so about the children that are really going to miss on loving and caring homes, that’s the bigger issue,” Ms Parker said.

The bill will now be sent to the lower house for consideration.

Ms Parker said if religious amendments were passed, it could open the gate for further exemptions.

“There are wins, but there could be future losses as well,” she said.

The mother of two boys, raised from five and six years old in a lesbian household, said she and her partner would have loved to adopt when they were younger.

“Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you don’t have parenting instincts,” Ms Parker said.

Gippsland Rainbow Collective member Karen Lawton said the gay community had long been involved as foster carers, and could not see why they couldn’t also adopt.

Ms Lawton said she was a foster carer more than 10 years ago, and had a positive influence on a child’s life that came into her care as a 14 year-old.

She said the child was now well adjusted, married and had her own children.

“If gay couples can care for foster children, why not adopt? Gay men can be sperm donors, why can’t they adopt?,” she said.

“People need to get their minds out of the bedroom and above the belt.”

In a statement, Equality Minister Martin Foley welcomed the vote of the legislative council to deliver adoption equality, but condemned the Liberal Party for voting to retain discrimination.

“Today we created history in Victoria and took a step closer to equality for thousands of same-sex families. Labor is proud of our equality agenda,” Mr Foley said.